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John Gordon Nix, Jr.


Valley Morning Star
Harlingen, TX
November 7, 2001


HARLINGEN—Mr. John Gordon Nix, Jr., October 29, 1911–November 5, 2001. 

Between these two dates there lies a "dash," a tiny mark of punctuation, which in this case represents a generous span of 90 years. 

Between J. Gordon's birth in Denison, Texas, as the only child of Gordon and Margaret Nix, and his departure on an exciting new journey on Monday morning, November 5, 2001, the small dash represents not merely time, but a life well lived. His loving wife and helpmate of 65 years, Mary Helen, survives, as do daughters Judy Johnson and her husband, Tom, and Jeanette, as well as uncountable friends and individuals who are enjoying more productive lives due to J. Gordon's influence. Others who became part of Gordon and Mary Helen's lives during recent years are friends and caregivers, Polo Sanchez, Virginia Reyes, and Ida Vargas. 

No small portion of J. Gordon's well-lived life was dedicated to education, as he many years challenging others to reach their goals through education. J. Gordon stood tall in stature approximately 6'3" (often taller in his Texas boots), and tall in his quiet, charming, knowledgeable personality. After graduating high school in 1929 from Denison High, he earned a B.A. degree in education Southeastern Teacher's State University in Durant, Oklahoma in 1936. That same year he and his Denison sweetheart, Mary Helen Kingston, were married on Christmas Day 1936. Shortly thereafter the couple moved to Harlingen where Gordon had begun teaching at what was then Alamo Elementary School on "F" St. Two elementary principle positions, the first at James H. Dishman, and later at Sam Houston Elementary, kept him very busy for several years, as he began to help the Harlingen School District strengthen its youthful roots. During these years the young couple settled in Harlingen, where they have continued to live, and saw their family grow with the birth of their two daughters.

World War II stepped into Gordon's life in 1942 for a stint of 3-1/2 years, as he became a lieutenant in the U.S. Army leading troops of the 157th Infantry into Africa, Italy, Germany, and the invasion of southern France. During his service he earned a number of wartime decorations, including the Purple Heart. 

By 1946 he was back in a schoolhouse once again, as a teacher and then junior high principal, at Minnie B. Gay Junior High. He was also a student himself in these years, earning a master's degree in 1950 from Texas A & I in Kingsville. He was making a difference in the lives of children as an educator, and in 1951 was selected as Harlingen High School principal, where he remained until 1967. From 1967 until 1970 Gordon served in the area of school administration as Director of Special Services, before returning to Stuart Place and Travis Elementary Schools to provide leadership as their principal. It wouldn't be fair to say that Gordon actually retired on June 10, 1977, after an outstanding 43 years of service, because he never ceased being an educator. As tall of a man as J. Gordon Nix Jr. was, he was never, ever too tall to put himself on the level of a child. 

"Mr. Nix," as he had come to be known in the school district and community ("It was hard to call him by his first name, not because he didn't encourage it, but because we respected him so highly," said a fellow educator), barely took a deep breath before offering his experience as a school board member in 1981–1986, serving as Board president in 1982–1983. In 1997, the Harlingen Public Schools chose to honor the unselfish and unparalleled contributions Mr. Nix made to children, staff, and the community, by naming its central office location on Tyler Street in his honor, as the "J. Gordon Nix, Jr. Support Center," and in a resolution so noting, referred to him as an "Educator for the Past, Present and Future." The City of Harlingen, under the direction of Mayor H. William Card Jr., also declared July 15, 1997, as J. Gordon Nix Day. 

Throughout the "dash" of his 90 years, J. Gordon was a loving husband and father, a faithful friend, and an asset to his community. He was a charter member of the North Harlingen Rotary Club, which he served for many years as secretary-treasurer, and with the ghost-writing skills of his precious wife, the duo prepared the group's newsletter for many years. "Gordon was always an excellent delegator of tasks, and I was his willing accomplice," admits Mary Helen. Gordon also served on a number of city boards and was president of the Planning and Zoning Commission. Gordon enjoyed dove and duck hunting, fishing, and a good conversation. He was president of the Valley Sportsmen Club for 7 years, and was honored for his years of service. He also was a Mason with 60 years of membership. 

Friends note that J. Gordon was a very fair person. But, a no was a no, and a yes was a yes! All describe him as a gentleman, a leader, a man of strength and wisdom. A man whose "dash" of 90 years was filled to overflowing with "Service above Self," as the Rotary Creed states. Mary Helen also remembers a lighter side of her husband, as she recalls their enjoyment of dancing together as young newlyweds. A wonderful memory to linger in the heart. 

Services will be held at St. Alban's Episcopal Church on 7th St. in Harlingen on Wednesday, November 7, 2001, at 1 p.m. A reception will follow the services in the church parish hall. J. Gordon's ashes will rest in the Columbarium of St. Alban's. 

The family wishes to thank everyone who has expressed their love and appreciation for J. Gordon's life. They would like you to know that he had a sincere interest in each person whose life crossed his path, and enjoyed sharing a warm handshake and a friendly greeting with you.

In lieu of flowers the family requests memorial donations may be made to St. Alban's Episcopal Church, 1417 E. Austin, Harlingen, TX. 78550 or the Harlingen Public Library, 410 76 Drive, Harlingen, Texas 78550.

 Arrangements are with Buck Ashcraft Funeral Home.

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